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This Week’s News, America, People’s Park, & People’s Strikes

We’ve got a loaded news wrap for you, stacked full of history, homeless, strikes and being black in America. Here goes…

Construction of People’s Park in 1969, in Berkeley, Calif. Photo courtesy of Janine Wiedel Photolibrary

 

Fight Brewing at People’s Park

There’s a long history of resistance at the site of Berkeley’s People’s Park – it was actually built by the community itself out of resistance and in the face of brutal police pushback in 1969 – and it looks as though there may be more yet to come. Berkeleyside reported the university’s plan to build “apartment-style dorms for as many as 1,000 students, supportive housing for the homeless or military veterans and a memorial honoring the park’s history and legacy” on the 2.8-acre green space. The park is a local legend on its own merits inside a city legendary for its uprisings and counterculture. It was a space used during free speech and anti-war protests and continued to be the center of protest gatherings in decades that followed. Things turned violent again in 1991 when the city leased the space from the university for $1 and built volleyball courts – many believing it was Berkeley’s attempt to push the homeless population out of the area. It’s doubtful the recently announced building plans will illicit such extreme resistance, but those that remember the park’s origins, like Tom Dalzell, urge the city to “keep in mind its unique value as a greenbelt, not just as hallowed…historical ground.”

 

Striking and Being Struck During UC System Picket

University of California system union workers ended a three-day strike Thursday with little progress made toward their end goals. Workers across the state’s campuses took up pickets Monday to demand an increase in wages and “an end to job outsourcing”, as reported by ABC7. Among other impacts to basic campus functions, the strike severely hindered functions at university hospitals, causing numerous surgery cancellations. The three days were contentious but peaceful, with the exception of an incident near UCLA when a motorist hit three picketers as he drove through the crowd. Videos were quickly posted of one man holding onto the hood of the car as it continued driving down the block.

As of now, reports indicate that the UC system is offering a 3 percent annual raise, which is far from the 20 percent over the next three years unions have demanded.

 

Oakland Gets Tuff on Homeless

The city of Oakland is rolling out its second Tuff Shed homeless transition center on 27th Street near Northgate Avenue, coined the “Northgate Community Cabins” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The new community can house between 40 and 50 residents and will offer resources to help those living there obtain medical care and job placement. The problem lies in the fact that the site is currently home to approximately 100 people at an established encampment, which will eventually be shut down. There’s an obvious deficit in the number of people the Tuff Shed community can house versus the number of people who have been living there, forcing many to disband in search of other encampments around the city.

 

WTF?

It’s common knowledge that “driving while black” is a thing. But the last few weeks have demonstrated that “living while black” is also still very much a thing. Apparently, you can’t be black and use a bathroom at Starbucks in Philadelphia, or be black and rent an AirBnB in California, or be black and take a nap in a dorm at Yale.

Anyone who’s gone to college knows that the month of May is especially stressful and exhausting, almost cruelly so. You’ll see people sleeping in just about every crevasse on any campus when finals are looming. You’ll catch droolers in the back row of classes, snoring over their laptops in the library, mouth breathers steaming up their car windows, curled up on metal hallway benches, and pretending to be awake in bathroom stalls. Lolade Siyonbola is a grad student at Yale University and she was tired. Hell, I’m just an undergrad trying to graduate from a state university this semester and I’m tired and anxious…all the time! Siyonbola decided to take a power nap in her dorm’s common room, likely because she’d pulled an all-nighter in the books, but somehow that was weird. Allow me to repeat, it’s May and there was a grad student sleeping in a dorm at Yale. Apparently, that scenario constituted suspicious behavior to one white student who called and reported the napper to university police, according to CNN.

After a filmed exchange, responding officers told her she was free to go and “admonished” the student who made the call. Siyonbola expressed gratitude for support she received in a later Facebook post but also pointed out that “this incident is a drop in the bucket of trauma Black folk have endured since Day 1 America”.

Which brings us to our next story…

This is America

If there’s a ceiling on the number of talents one person can have, Donald Glover has most certainly shattered it, again and again. Attempting to list things he’s achieved in his short 34 years on this planet just borders on stupid. He’s an New York University grad that landed a writing gig on 30 Rock at 23-years-old, he plays Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Star Wars movie while slaying critics with his show Atlanta (which he sometimes directs), he’s a pretty fairly seasoned stand-up comedian who had a regular role on Community, he’s a Grammy Award-winning R&B singer…oh, and he’s Childish Gambino – arguably the most prolific and talked-about rapper on this particular day in history.

But you see, the thing is…he’s a black man in America. With all those things he can brag about having done, with all the fame he’s received and all the impact he’s had, nothing changes the fact that he’s a black man, in America. It doesn’t matter how much money pads your wallet or who you can name-drop (and the man knows Tina Fey, for God’s sake), because when you leave that world where everybody knows you and you’re a star, once you step out onto that sidewalk or get behind the wheel of your car, if you’re a black man in America, you’re at risk. Period. That’s reality. That’s his reality.

Enter brilliance.

Childish Gambino, or Glover, has had every news outlet and most people below the age of 75 discussing that reality, analyzing it, picking it apart. With Saturday’s release of the single and video for This is America, he managed to thrust the issue(s) into the public conversation with deeply layered symbolism and an earworm of a tune, and basically broke the internet. He evokes the Jim Crow minstrel while posing and dancing in Confederate soldier pants, while brutality, riots and suicide play out behind him. Viewers are intentionally lured into the tune, distracted by the vibrance, and then boom! He mows down a church choir nonchalantly, like he’s taking a coffee break…and then resumes dancing like nothing happened. And that’s the point, isn’t it? We’re all so caught up in our distractions that we neglect to notice what’s going on in the background. Society is so keen on appropriating black culture and yet so negligent, or dismissive, about what it really means to be black in America. Glover decided to use his platform as one of the most highly-regarded modern talents to shove grim realities into the foreground.

But if you ask him, like E! did at the Met Gala, he’ll say:

“I just wanted to make, you know, a good song. Something people could play on Fourth of July.”

 

Rapid Fire Wrap

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal and Israel and Iran immediately escalated violence in the region.

Three detainees were returned to the U.S. from North Korea in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Michael Cohen is in more trouble for a shell company and a potential pay-to-play scandal.

Oakland Mural Festival kicks off Saturday through May 19.

The Warriors kicked Pelican ass and move on to Western Conference Finals.

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.